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Psilocybin – an option for treatment-resistant depression?

Psilocybin, the active component of magic mushrooms, is being seriously considered as a therapy for people with treatment-resistant depression. One in five people suffer from depression at some point in their lives – a significant proportion of whom cannot be helped with any current psychotherapy or drugs.

In 2012 researchers published a paper which used fMRI scans to show the effects of psilocybin on the brain. A related paper, published at the same time, suggested that psilocybin could be a useful tool in psychotherapy. The researchers have now gone on to test the safety of psilocybin in a small group of patients with treatment-resistant depression. They are publishing their new findings, funded by the Medical Research Council, in The Lancet Psychiatry.

Journalists came along to the SMC to discuss:

  • How safe is psilocybin? What are the side-effects and how do they compare to other treatments?
  • As this is such a small study, how much can we really say at this point?
  • Do the results tell us anything about the efficacy of psilocybin?
  • What steps need to be taken before psilocybin could be a regular treatment?
  • Could it be used to treat all types of depression?
  • What do we currently do for people with treatment-resistant depression?
  • Is psilocybin likely to be harder to get to market than other drugs?


Speakers will include:

Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, Research Fellow in the Centre for Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London

Prof. Phil Cowen, Professor of Psychopharmacology, University of Oxford

Prof. David Nutt, Edmond J Safra Chair and Head of the Centre for Neuropsychopharmacology, Imperial College London

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